Research staff

Researchers in higher education form a large and distinct group of UCU members whose contracts of employment are often characterised by insecurity.

Many researchers remain on fixed-term contracts, despite legislation intended to halt the abuse of successive fixed-term contracts and other, whilst moved to 'open-ended' contracts, constantly face threats of dismissal as research grants end or a particular funding stream runs dry.

UCU believes there are better ways to treat researchers. We have been campaigning for permanent contracts and increased security for many years. We have supported legal challenges against the continued use of fixed-term contracts, most notably in the case of Ball v Aberdeen.

  • Dr Ball had been continuously employed at the university under three successive contracts which had each been linked to external short term fixed-term funding. When Dr Ball sought confirmation of his permanent status under the Regulations he was advised that as the university had no guarantee of further funding beyond the end date in his contracts they believed there was an objective justification to continue to employ Dr Ball on fixed-term contracts.

    The tribunal found that the university could not establish objective grounds for continuing Dr Ball's employment on a fixed term basis and rejected the university's case that short term funding could automatically provide a justification for employment on a fixed term contract.

Information The UCU researchers' survival guide offers practical advice on a wide range of career issues.

We have developed two leaflets aimed at research managers - one specifically for UCU members and one for research managers more generally. These can be reproduced and used for any local campaigning:

See also our researchers' charter:  Researchers' Charter [32kb] (opens in a new window)

The materials provided as part of the Stamp Out Casual Contracts campaign apply equally to researchers on fixed-term contracts as to other groups of staff.

Last updated: 13 January 2016